Music collection

The National Library of Australia has the largest collection of sheet music in the country, comprising over 300,000 items. To find out more, explore our Music research guide.

A bronze sculpture of a music conductor featuring an open book motif in the centre
Wiea Duintjer, Open book sculpture, 2013, bronze, on display at the National Library of Australia in the Special Collections Reading Room (2022).

Not sure where to start?

A woman sings while children in sailor suits gather around her
Bruce Postle & Bert Newton, Lisa McCune as Maria von Trapp in the stage production of The Sound of Music, Melbourne, 2000, nla.obj-148394142

Publishing material from our unique collections 

Many of the performing arts materials within the collections are unique and beautiful. To request high quality digital copies of the material for publication or other public use, you can use our Copies Direct service. Copies will be provided subject to the Australian Copyright Act 1968 and any other access conditions or cultural considerations and will be sent to you via email or post.  

Even if you do not need a high-quality copy supplied, the Library requests that you inform us if you intend to publish (reproduce, print, use online, broadcast, perform, display, include in a film, transmit, project, quote) a copy of an item from our rare and unique collections.  This will allow us to inform you of your responsibilities in relation to copyright, conditions of use, moral rights, performance rights and correct forms of acknowledgement. 

You may also be interested in the Library’s answers to FAQs, such as: 

Can I perform music from the Library's collection? 

The Australasian Performing Right Association - Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (APRA AMCOS) collects and distributes licence fees for the public performance and communication of members' musical works. APRA AMCOS will be able to advise who holds the performance rights for Australian works, if known.  

Can I perform playscripts from the Library's collection? 

The rights for most plays and musicals are held by play publishing houses on behalf of the creators or their estates. Before producing or performing any play you must obtain permission from the rights holder, and you will likely be required to pay a licensing fee or production royalties. 

Some playscripts include music or sound recordings. Many venues will already hold an Australian Performing Rights Association (APRA) licence that allows music to be performed without additional permission. Producers are advised to contact APRA for information on music licensing requirements. 

There are a wide range of Australian organisations in Australia that can assist with production licensing, including: 

  • Screenrights – Educational institutions and government agencies can pay for a licence to copy or broadcast certain film, television and radio productions
  • Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) – Pay for a licence to broadcast recorded music or perform it in public

Webinar: Ask a Librarian about our Music collection

Learn about the Library's extensive Music collection in this edition of our Ask a Librarian webinar. Follow our Music librarians as they answer selected questions and share their research tips and tricks.

Transcript available here